Theme Park Architecture: Dark Rides & Fantasyland

As the Spring semester comes quickly to a close I have one more medium size project planned for Architecture & Design.

Disneyland’s Fantasyland: 1950s, 1980s, and 2010s

Let’s start by taking a trip back to the 1950s. Make sure to open these images up in a different tab so you can zoom in on all the detail:

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During the construction of Disneyland in the 1950s money and time ran out and the plans for Fantasyland had to be scaled back and simplified. The architects and designers came up with a solution that involved building simple plywood facades that were painted and detailed to give the appearance of medieval tournament tents. This proved to be satisfactory enough that this version of Fantasyland would persist until the early 1980s.

1983: Fantasyland Version 2.0

After two and a half decades of use the plywood facades were showing their age and Disneyland began renovations on Fantasyland sometime between 1980 and 1982. The remake of Fantasyland would entail more than tearing out the facades on the front of the ride buildings; the buildings were completely gutted and the rides themselves received a makeover to match the new exterior theming.

Make sure to read through these very informative posts that lay down some more detailed history concerning the first two iterations of Fantasyland:

Gallery of Fantasyland Demolition Photos

The images below are a fascinating look at the underlying architecture stripped of theming.

Click images and open in another tab:




Fantasyland Today

Google Maps satellite view and Apple Maps 3D View of Fantasyland in 2017:

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Google 360 Views

Check out these 360 degree views for a closer look at what Fantasyland looks like today. Try to match the locations of the 360 degree views with the satellite and 3D views above.

Project: Dark Ride Drawings

We will be creating our own dark rides and visualizing them in isometric, elevation, and plan views. To frame your thinking on what type of ride you’re creating here are some possible prompts:

Project Prompts

  • 1950s Fantasyland: It’s 1954 and you have been tasked with designing one of the Fantasyland dark rides at Disneyland. You can choose any 1950s Disney story that you think would match the theme of Fantasyland. Remember that the budget (and timeline) will be limited and you are creating a facade that will be built from plywood to resemble a medieval tournament tent (take a close look at the 1950s era images above to get a good idea of what those would look like).
  • 1983 Fantasyland: It’s 1980 and you have been tasked with redesigning one of the original Fantasyland rides. Keep in mind that you will be limited to these choices: Peter Pan, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, or Pinocchio. Remember that this redesign is well funded and you will be expected to create a fully themed three dimensional exterior facade (with a detailed and immersive queue) that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale village (Take a close look at the modern version of Fantasyland in the google 360 views above).
  • Not Disneyland: Forget Disneyland! Make your own dark ride design themed to whatever you want.
  • Vintage Dark Ride: Research the dark rides of the 1910s and 20s. Create a dark ride design that looks like it would fit in with that era.

Project Resources

Don’t limit yourself to just the resources I’ve gathered here!



I have collected an assortment of images that might help you.  Feel free to search for more!